Oh the edit. The dreaded edit. I gotta tell ya, I'm not the best when it comes to editing. It's not that I can't craft a good story. It's that I hate siting behind a computer and navigating the software. The mechanics of editing is what gets me. I'm dreaming of the day when we've got Minority Report type screens, where I can fling footage around with the flick of my wrist.
And since I'm airing all my creative sins I might as well keep babbling. So here we go: 41x was stuck in editing purgatory for quite some time. There, I said it. Paying jobs came up, other projects presented themselves and James Spradlin (producer) and I had to retool the flow of the film a few of times. It wasn't easy but I think it was worth it (glad to get that off my chest).
James and I talked a lot about this doc. Throughout filming & the edit we were constantly reevaluating the story, visuals, angle and purpose. We drew on whiteboards and consulted with other filmmakers we respected. A little obsessive? Yes (just ask my wife). But I really wanted to do justice to Mikes story and make a kick-ass film, even if it was only 5 minutes long. When I initially described 41x to James I said something like this: "I want to create empathy. I know a lot of people will laugh at the idea of a redneck racing a lawnmower (I say redneck because I don't think Mike would mind). But I want them to be drawn in by the weirdness and stay for the human aspect of Mikes story. The part where they realize how similar they are to Mike." Did I accomplish that? You be the judge...
It was important for me to introduce the short like the sport. Fast, raucous, fun and full of energy. The intro, with the mower under the spotlight, was another idea Matt Hutchens (stedicam) and I worked on. He brought out an LED panel and I brought some heavy duty stands to boom them over the track. Once the sun went down we went to work. This is when knowing how you want to edit before you edit is important. I think these shots really upped the production value as well as gave a visual breather for the viewer between all the quick cutting action shots.
Music really played an important part of my youth and still informs a lot of my creativity to this day. The playlist I created was instrumental while editing 41x (high five for that pun!). I often listened to it on repeat while driving out to the track, editing, on the toilet, etc. It contained a lot of different stuff. Muse, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Band of Skulls and most importantly for the film, North Mississippi Allstars. Rollin 'N Tumblin was a really gritty and fast-paced tune which I knew would work well with the subject matter. It was my dream song for the first act of the film. With the limited knowledge I have of the music industry I thought securing the rights to use it would be impossible. I was completely wrong. Once I had a rough edit of the film I emailed their manager to see if they would give me permission. And get this...it took me 14 days to get the go-ahead. It's like ya mamma always said, "You'll never know if you don't ask." I've also gotta give a big thanks to Steve London, an incredibly talented composer and friend who did a terrific job cutting the song to the visuals. It wouldn't be what it is now without him. Fun fact: Steve and I met and became friends at the Florida Film Festival where Mr. Gold played before their feature length true crime documentary, Once Upon a Crime: The Borrelli Davis Conspiracy, which he composed and produced (make sure you see it. It's jarring, enraging & tender-hearted).
The family bond is really strong in Mikes family and I figured they would have ample photos and news clippings from Tommys time racing. I never thought I would score a gold mine of old super-8 footage from his sister that was already digitized. The film Gods were indeed smiling down on me. During the edit I began to see we were using this footage quite a bit and was getting tired of how it was being displayed. To break it up James and I headed out to the track to project the images on a shed. My hope is it gives the viewers something different.
All this being said I must acknowledge the film would be crap if I hadn't of handed it over to Joshua McWilliams to edit. He really knocked it out of the park and brought it to another level. I love filmmaking because I get to collaborate with some great creatives, which leads to a better film.